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A Leaven In The World… Make Way For Millennials

March 26, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

By FR. KEVIN M. CUSICK

A body that doesn’t grow dies. Every successful organization always devotes some time and resources to accessions. Something of its own energy must be reinvested to take care of an organism’s own needs. Training and retention have no purpose without recruiting. The Church is no exception.
We see in Europe that the young vanguard is taking the helm of the ship of state, in some cases at an unusually tender age. “Following the 2017 legislative elections, Sebastian Kurz became the youngest head of government in the world, at the age of 31,” according to Wikipedia, referring to the new chancellor of Austria.
The trend continues in southern Europe, most recently, in Italy.
The youthful Luigi Di Maio, born in Avellino, just a few miles in the suburbs from my own home of two years, Naples, may be Italy’s next prime minister. This follows his rise to prominence on a wave of popularity as a candidate of the Five Star movement. Living with his parents until just a few years ago, he has captured the hearts of his fellow Neapolitans by making the Duomo in Naples his first stop after victory for a pilgrimage to venerate the relics of city’s patron, San Gennaro. Like Kurz, Di Maio never completed his formal education.
According to Wikipedia, “In September 2017 Di Maio was elected Prime Ministerial candidate and Political Head of the M5S, with more than 82 percent of the vote.”
These young leaders are the political bellwether of a broad social trend evident in the Church as well, one generation taking the torch from their elders preparing to retire from the field of earthly endeavor.
The Church needs to also engage and include these young people on the cusp of marriage and family life with participation and leadership in parish life.
The Vatican was attempting to incorporate young minds and voices through a recent Pre-Synod Youth Gathering convened in Rome. The participants from various countries were encouraged to exercise candor. One young woman, as reported on various media platforms, stood up to speak and said that she and other young people her age are still asking the same questions their parents posed forty years ago about contraception, male priesthood, and roles of women in the Church. Curiously, the young woman was dressed in what was clearly off the shoulder evening wear for her daytime synod appearance. Perhaps her ill-chosen clothing when business attire would have been more appropriate indicates the same ill-considered source of her comments.
Are millennials who are practicing their faith truly pushing the same buttons as their parents did? I can argue only from my own experience, which indicates the answer is no: The pendulum has swung, and dramatically so. The young people at the Pre-Synod Gathering in Rome do not speak for all of their colleagues.
Young Catholics are making their voices heard in my parish, but they are not sounding the same notes as their parents did forty years ago. These young people, some educated and others dropouts like Kurz and De Maio, are practicing their faith and contributing to parish life in various ways. They sing in the schola, play the organ, serve as director of liturgy or parish bookkeeper and on pastoral and finance councils. Two young couples are preparing for marriage. One young man is, despite the impediment of college debt and with no degree, discerning the priesthood. None of them feel the need in any way to change Church teaching in matters of faith or morals as did the previous generation.
Not only do they see no need to change teaching — they marvel that anyone else does. In their view, it doesn’t make sense to accept the Church’s identity on the one hand and then cancel out a constitutive aspect of it on the other.
Millennials want formal liturgy and organ; boomers want guitars and extemporaneity. Millennials want chant and boomers ask for three songs only at their funerals: Be Not Afraid, On Eagles’ Wings, and Amazing Grace. Parents born before 1946 also bought into the anti-liturgical deconstruction waged in the name of Vatican II.
Increasingly, well-read and thoughtful millennials see absolutely no need or usefulness in banging the Vatican II “drum” any longer. They want the Tradition, and the more of it, the better. If 1962 is good, pre-1955 is best, in their view. This year for the second time we will celebrate in our parish the pre-1955 Holy Week because of the push from the millennials among us away from anything tainted by the postconciliar liturgical tampering.
The transition underway in the Church in some cases crosses generational lines. A boomer priest such as myself who was ordained in the new rite but now prefers the Traditional Mass may have parents who wish to stay with English and Vatican II. These are the ones more likely to request the big funeral trinity of Glory and Praise tunes I listed earlier in this column. A small minority of home-schooling parents in their forties are exclusively attending the Traditional Mass. Their influence on the Church will increase in the coming years as they are having more children than their peers and more vigorously encouraging religious vocations, compared to their updated peers.
If we are to grow, we need to make way in the Church for millennials. The best way to do so is to offer the Traditional Mass.
Millennials go to Mass to pray the Mass. This is the first and most necessary reason for everyone to do so. The Church exists to save souls, which happens only for those who persevere in keeping the Commandments until death. Keeping the Lord’s Day holy only until junior gets First Communion or Confirmation does not betoken the love of God which is living the faith.
We should no longer delude ourselves that we are preaching the Gospel based on the false statistics of cradle or cultural Catholics who go to Mass only for temporary reasons.
Thank you for reading, and best wishes for a blessed and joyful Easter to you and yours.
Alleluia! Christ is risen!

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